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Is it still owner-occupied if I'm living offsite during a major renovation of my home in WA state?

Washington

Hello, I have been the residential home owner (it's my principal residence) of a property that has been undergoing major renovations. It has been a gut to the studs renovation on a 50 year old home has had brand new electrical, plumbing and mechanical installed. As a result, during the renovation, my family and I had to move out to temporary rental accommodations. One of the subcontractors, who was working on the property while we were living offsite, is threatening to place a mechanic's lien on the property. However, the subcontractor never served us a pre-lien notice. Given my situation, does Washington state law deem my property owner-occupied for the purposes of this potential lien? My family and I really appreciate any help or insight you can provide.

1 reply

Feb 15, 2019
That's a good question, and depending on the context, what's considered "owner-occupied" could be different - this answer will look at it from the perspective of the Washington mechanics lien laws. But, before getting into the Washington specifics, it's worth noting that, generally, whether a property is considered "owner-occupied" will be dependent on the intentions of the owner. Meaning, where an owner intends a property to be their primary residence is often considered "owner-occupied" property, especially when there's evidence that they've lived at that property as a primary residence for some period of time, and when they apparently intend to continue that trend. Now, to the statute. Under § 60.04.011(9) of the Washington mechanics lien statute, "Owner-occupied" is defined as "a single-family residence occupied by the owner as his or her principal residence." So, based exclusively on the text of that definition, it might seem like property that is not literally occupied by the owner at the moment of determining whether property is owner-occupied or not wouldn't be considered owner-occupied. At the same time, generally, the law can be understanding. It seems a bit preposterous that, where an owner moves out of a property for the sole purpose of performing improvements, that property would no longer be considered "owner-occupied". Further, the second half of the definition above notes that it's the owner's "principal residence" - and where an owner has lived in one location for a long time and has done nothing to indicate they don't intend to do the same moving forward, it'd be hard to argue that such an owner has established some other property as their principle residence. Based on that context, it seems like the legislative intent was to include property that's considered the principal residence of an owner - which wouldn't really be affected by a temporary restoration. For access to the above-referenced Washington statutes as well as other Washington lien law considerations, this resource should be helpful: Washington Lien & Notice FAQs.
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